What would I miss on a cheap CD changer?

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Bryce_R, Oct 1, 2001.

  1. Bryce_R

    Bryce_R Auditioning

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    Here's my dilemma. My single disc DVD player just isn't cutting it as a CD player, simply because it's only one disc. If I buy a cheap (i.e. ~$100) 5-6 disc changer would I really be missing much if I get one with optical or digital coax output and use that?
    I guess my question boils down to finding a changer with good mechanics at a cheap price.
    Any suggestions?
    -Bryce
     
  2. Bryce_R

    Bryce_R Auditioning

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    Anybody?
     
  3. Shade Watson

    Shade Watson Stunt Coordinator

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    If you are planning on using a digital connection, why not get a megachanger?
     
  4. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Bryce, it is a commonly held belief in audio that not all players sound the same when being used as transports (i.e., when using the digital outputs to external DACs). Stability of the disc in the transport mechanism, or lack thereof, as well as other factors can influence jitter, or timing errors, in CD players. Jitter has to do with a player's ability to read and deliver the 1s and 0s at the right time. The better transports have very low levels of jitter, meaning that they are more accurate in reading and transferring the information off of CDs. Jitter is considered an audible phenomenon. I would expect a $100 CD changer to have higher jitter and be an inferior transport relative to $500+ CD players.
    I do not have much experience testing sound quality of transports, as I currently use all of my CD players with stereo amplifiers that do not have DACs, and I do not use external DACs. My comments regarding jitter are based on what I have read in hi-fi magazines and learned in discussions with audiophiles in the past. Some people do not believe that transports should sound different, but many people do.
    In my limited experience with transports, I have experienced some bad ones. I own a Pioneer CLD-D406 laserdisc player, which I have connected to a Sony STR-V444ES A/V receiver via an optical digital cable for CDs and Dolby Surround and DTS laserdiscs. CDs using the 'D406 as a transport sound simply dreadful. Now, the 'D406 was certainly not one of Pioneer's better laserdisc players made in recent years, but its performance as a transport is worse than I would have expected. CDs sound much better when I connect my $500 Sony CDP-CA80ES carousel CD changer to the 'V444ES with an optical digital cable.
    You might want to try changers at a couple price points as transports in your system. If you hear no difference between a $100 model and, say, a $400 model, then you might want to go with the $100 model (more below). Keep in mind that it takes good equipment (receiver and speakers) to hear differences in transports, so if you don't hear a difference, consider the other equipment you have before jumping to the conclusion that all transports sound the same.
    If $100 and $400 CD changers were to sound identical as transports on your system, you might still want to consider going with the $400 model. The $400 unit will most certainly have a better DAC and better analog output stage, which could be useful if you are ever in a situation to use the analog outputs (i.e., with a stereo amp). Furthermore, having a CD player with quality sound from the analog outputs gives you flexibility with your receiver. Depending on the quality of your receiver, it could be that a more expensive CD changer with a quality DAC and analog output stage will sound better using the analog outputs than when used as a transport to the receiver's DAC. With a $100 changer, you might not find good sound using the analog or digital outputs due to lackluster DACs, etc. in both the player and receiver. A $400 changer is also likely to be built better than a $100 changer and could last longer. Finally, if you were to spend a bit more money to get a Sony ES changer over a mass-market changer, you would get a five-year warranty with the former. Generally speaking, mass-market changers only come with a one-year warranty.
    Hope this helps.
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  5. Bryce_R

    Bryce_R Auditioning

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    There's two reasons I'm not considering a mega-changer at this point:
    1) I don't want to bother with naming discs to know what's where...I can remember what the 5-6 discs I have in a changer are.
    2) I don't really have a need for a mega-changer. I have enought CD's to fill one, but I usually just want to listen to a few CD's after work...not endless non-repeating music for weeks on end.
    -Bryce
     
  6. Phuong

    Phuong Stunt Coordinator

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    You might be missing a digital output on the cheaper CD changer. I believe in surround sound preamps/receivers, so I'd rather the DA stage done there, even if listening to music in 2 channel stereo (I prefer 2.1 channel stereo). As for sound quality, well, it depends on how judgemental you are. Three decibals by audiophile standards is the difference between good and crappy. Just make sure the CD player doesn't make much noise. I have a Pioneer 525 DVD player, and the only problem I have with it, besides the one disc capacity, is that it's a little on the noisy side. All in all, the bigger your budget, the more likely you'll quibble about these things.
    That being said, Onkyo makes some nice CD changers that hold six discs instead of the usual five.
    Peace, and happy listening.
     
  7. Bryce_R

    Bryce_R Auditioning

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    KeithH,
    Thanks for the lengthy response. My system isn't high-end by any measure, but I've got about $2,000 invested in it at the moment. I wouldn't mind spending another $200-300 on a good quality built CD player that I'm going to keep for a number of years. My dad still has a Fisher setup that he bought a little more than 20 years ago.
    I see in your profile that you've got the Denon DCM-370 which is a model I'm planning on taking a look at this weekend as it's gotten high marks from just about all.
    I'm also going to look at the Harman Kardon FL-8380, even though I've seen some information about possible reliability problems. I'll admit that part of me wants this player just so it'll match nicely with my HK AVR-310 receiver
    Phuong,
    Could you point me towards a particular model or two that Onkyo makes that you'd recommend?
    -Bryce
     
  8. Phuong

    Phuong Stunt Coordinator

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    Onkyo makes only one CD changer, the DX-C380. It costs about $175. You don't want to mess with their DVD changers, as they are not compatible with CDRs and CDRWs.
    Marantz has a nice one, the CC4000, which has a headphone jack and level control, for about $250, though I can't seem to locate the DISC SKIP button on the front.
    HK and Denon are probably fine choices as well, given the solid construction and reputation of those companies.
    Another thing to keep in mind, the more you spend, the more that cosmetics plays a role in your buying decision. I really doubt that the B&W Nautilus 805 sounds 2.5 times as good as the 601, but I'm down for saying it looks more than twice as good!!!
    Peace and happy listening.
     
  9. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    Some thoughts. At the $100 price point (if that was a real number you were considering and not just something you tossed out), you might not get a digital output. Consider the Denon DCM-270, the one I have - one step down from the 370, no HDCD decoding, and IIRC no digital output. It's about $180-$200 street, and a decent sounding player, especially after I opened it and damped the insides. Anyway... one of the big plusses of the DCM-370 are its DACs and its HDCD decoding. If you're planning to use it only as a transport, I think you'd be wasting your money a little bit by going for the 370, because you wouldn't be using it's strongest aspects.
    One option you do have is getting a cheap transport/CD player with a digital output, and an external DAC. Sonically, this could very well beat many more expensive CD players, and possibly at a price point that's cheaper than CD players you might consider. Try looking into the MSB Link (I think that's the name), I've heard good things about it. Ditto for the unit by Perpetual Tech. I have no idea what these go for, but I think I remember some products in the $200 range.
    I hope that gives you more options to think about, and I hope it doesn't confuse you more [​IMG]
     
  10. Bryce_R

    Bryce_R Auditioning

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    Thank you all for your responses. I'm beginning to consider changers with a slightly higher price range now just for reliability and longevity's sake.
    My search begins anew.
    -Bryce
     
  11. Justin Doring

    Justin Doring Screenwriter

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    My friend has a Harman/Kardon changer (I don't know the model number, but I think it's last years model) that he paid about $150 shipped for at J&R Music world, and he likes it. He uses the digital out on it and uses the DACs in his Sherwood pre/pro, and he says he can't tell the difference between it as a transport and his Toshiba DVD player as a transport. When you're talking high-end systems, the transport certainly does matter, but at this level, the differences are probably non-existant. The H/K is well-built considering the budget price. Something like a NAD or Sony ES changer will get you better build and sound, but that could cost three to four times as much.
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    "Home is where the theater is!"
     
  12. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Bryce,
    The Denon DCM-370 is a very nice changer for the price (I paid $250). However, Saurav brings up a good point that if you were to use the '370 as a transport, you would not use the HDCD decoding function. From that perspective, the '270 might make more sense. However, my view on these things often times is that when two models are so close in price, get the better one. If you get the '270 home and decide you like the sound using the analog outputs better than with the digital outputs, you may find yourself wishing you had HDCD decoding. The '370 has a nice sound using the analog outputs, so I wouldn't discount that hook-up option.
    As for Harman/Kardon changers, I haven't used them, but I have heard about reliability problems. When I bought the Denon '370 one year ago, I briefly considered the then-current Harman/Kardon FL8550 changer, which also offered HDCD decoding. I quickly eliminated the FL8550 from consideration after reading all the bad reviews on audioreview.com. Many FL8550 players had a problem recognizing discs, so I balked. The current FL8380 could be better, but I'd go with the Denon.
    Other models you might consider in addition to the Denon '370 are the Marantz CC4000 and Sony CDP-CA70ES. They are priced similar to the Denon.
    Phuong,
    I know that the older Onkyo DV-C600 six-disc DVD changer (discontinued) does not play CD-Rs, but the newer 'C501 and 'C601 don't either?
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  13. anthony_b

    anthony_b Screenwriter

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    I'm also in the market for a CD changer. I have an Onkyo receiver that proceses 96/24 bit information through the digital inputs. I'm looking into the Marantz 3000/4000, the diference is the dac in the 3000 unit is 16 bit ?...but it wouldn't matter to me because I'm using the Onkyo's digital input.
     
  14. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Anthony, note that a higher-bit DAC need not be better than a lower-bit DAC. There are many different types of DACs from different manufacturers. The quality of the analog output stage along with the DAC influences the sound quality of a CD player when using the analog outputs. One cannot look at the DAC alone. Thus, a 24-bit DAC need not be better than a 1-bit DAC. Now, the Marantz CC4000 may have a better DAC than the CC3000 and better associated parts, however, if your receiver has a higher-bit DAC than the CC4000, it could be that the CC4000's DAC is better. Better stated, the sound using the CC4000's analog outputs could be better than using the digital outputs. In the end, you need to evaluate a CD player using both the analog and digital outputs.
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  15. Salvatore Restivo

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    I use the Denon DCM-370 with a Denon AVR-4800. When I first bought the 370, I expected to use it as a transport. But after living with it a while, I found that I like the sound of the analog outputs better. I'm very happy with the 370. Its Burr-Brown DACs and HDCD decoder are great features.
     
  16. Phuong

    Phuong Stunt Coordinator

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    KeithH,
    I've checked all the advertising on the Onkyos and see no mention of CDR compatibility. The only player I know that's compatible is their new 555 player, which also plays MP3 discs. I remember trying to play a burned disc of mine on an Onkyo DVD changer, but to no avail. For a person like me, space is at a premium and I hate the rat's nest of wires in the back. That's why I'm waiting for a good DVD changer (also MP3 compatible) to come out that fits my needs. Panaosonic has a decent one out, but I'm not trying to get into Panasonic. If I go cheap, I'd rather buy Pioneer. We'll have to see.
     
  17. Nicholas A. Gallegos

    Nicholas A. Gallegos Stunt Coordinator

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    If you're looking for something at the $100 price point with a digital output, the Sony CPD-CE275 is one to consider. Sure it's not going to be as good as say, an HK, but if you only have $100 to spend, your options are limited. The only drawback with that particular Sony model is that it lacks a remote. But it does have an IR sensor to receive commands from one.
     
  18. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    Phuong,
    Thanks for the info. Pioneer's new DV-440 single-disc DVD player plays MP3-encoded CDs, and like all Pioneer DVD players, plays CD-Rs. The Pioneer DV-C503 five-disc DVD changer plays CD-Rs, but not MP3 CDs. However, I have seen the 'C503 discounted everywhere, so I am guessing it has been discontinued. The timing is right, as it's been out about a year. Maybe Pioneer will follow the mold of the '440 and replace the 'C503 with a changer that will play MP3 CDs.
    Nicholas,
    For only $30 more than the cost of the CDP-CE275 (about the price of two CDs), one can move up to the 'CE375. It's essentially the same as the 'CE275, but has a remote.
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  19. Steve T

    Steve T Stunt Coordinator

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    When I started to have problems with an HK FL8370, I decided that purchasing a cheap CD player and using it's digital output to my receiver would suffice. I ended up buying a Technics SL-PD5 and was very unhappy with it, using either it's digital or analog output. Even though the HK players have had their share of problems, they sound very good. I ended up taking the Technics back and buying the Denon DCM-370.
    Moral of the story? Do not be in a hurry and buy a cheap player. Audition several players in the $200-300 category before you buy.
     
  20. Saurav

    Saurav Cinematographer

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    The only thing with the DCM-270 is, I'm not sure if it has a digital output. I don't think it does. Which is fine for me, since I'm using an all-analog integrated amplifier. For someone looking to use it optionally as a transport, a digital output would be essential.
     

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